Dear Salvation Army, How Accountable Are We Really?

Last year (2016), General Cox set forth an initiative called Journey of Renewal.
This initiative has been created to encourage, grow, and tackle many of the struggles our Army faces today.  In some countries in recent years there have been horrific criminal events that have taken place, and in some regards this is the Army’s response as a preventative measure for the present and future.

I am greatly encouraged by this initiative, and see the possibilities of being truly transparent…but please afford me a small measure of cynicism too.  I am hopeful, yet I am unsure if this can, or will actually work.  (I really, really hope it does!)

I want transparency and accountability for all leadership. salvation army
I believe that this is not only biblical, it is also ethical.
Yet, I am unsure how this will be done from every level, when the accountability of all leadership is not currently in place yet.  Sure, there are the yearly reviews and the audits and so on, but how does one thoroughly weigh the performance of Army personnel from afar?

We must tread carefully as we throw the word accountability around, because, as this initiative states, we must have proof with facts and not just rumors.  Accusations and rumors can destroy leaders from every level if wrongfully accused, this we must be mindful of.  On the same token, our accountability of leadership MUST encompass every level of authority from the top down.  We cannot have true accountability until every rank, position and appointment are held to the same level.  We cannot sweep things under the rug for one and enforce disciplinary measures for another.

We also should recognize that every level of leadership is fallible and is sometimes subject to making mistakes.  A level of grace must be given while these measures of accountability are kept.  Without grace, all of us fall short of the glory of God!

Please allow me to quote a portion of this initiative from General Cox:  
Being open and transparent.
The Accountability Movement encourages people to be more open and transparent. Leaders should not ask ‘why do they need to know?’ but rather enable an open, transparent culture of ‘why shouldn’t people be told?’

Salvation Army leaders at all levels should encourage people to think, discuss and debate how the Army can be more effective, efficient and faithful in doing God’s will in our communities.

Mutual respect and truth.
There must be a culture of mutual respect and truth-telling between Army leaders and those under their command. Developing this culture means that if leaders or followers behave badly there must be consequences. The General has made it clear that everyone needs to be held to account – but fairly.

The practice of complaining secretly or writing anonymous letters has to end. A new accountability culture will require effective processes to address the concerns of whistle-blowers – but allegations must be backed up with facts, not rumours.”

I must tell you the portion that I am most wary of: “complaining of secretly  or writing anonymous letters has to end…”  I understand that there have been many forms of accusation in various places around the Army world, some legitimate while others slanderous and maliciously false.  One of the causes of such a practice in our army (letter writing and secretly complaining) is that there is a very real fear of reprisals or punishment for those who would cry foul, and the fear is this punishment will be handed out by leaders in authority.  Perhaps an officer has complained about leadership, and so without any investigation, that officer is either directly dealt with or sent to a punishment appointment in the hopes that they will then resign and then the “problem” officer is gone.    Our Army is very good at holding our cards tightly to our chest.  We are not very good at transparency, although at times we talk a good game…much improvement needs to take place in order to actually be transparent, and I think General Cox is right in talking about this and starting this initiative.

With that being said though, if transparency is to be fully realized there must be a level playing field for all Officers and soldiers (which I really hope this initiative produces). Some people in our Army do not have any way in which they can safely respond to improper use of authority and maltreatment.  Where does a soldier go to report the misuse of authority by their Corps Officer?  Where does a Corps Officer go to report the misuse of authority by their Divisional Officer?  The list goes on.  Who will really listen to them and actually take them seriously and look into it?  And if something is found, will anything really be done unless it becomes a legal issue?
Please do not misunderstand me, I am not advocating any kind of witch-hunt in our Army by any means, all I am inferring is that everyone who holds a shred of authority from the General on down to the local officer in a corps should be held accountable in the same way.  Yes, the level of responsibility is different, but everyone should be striving for the same goal:  Christ-likeness and Kingdom building.  If another ambition or goal has been improperly submitted, then hold that person accountable and measure the fruit that each produces.

new accountability culture will require effective processes to address the concerns of whistle-blowers

I am very curious to know what “effective processes” actually means?
Dear Salvation Army, if you want to be truly transparent, then these effective processes will be explained in greater detail in the near future.  I am encouraged by this initiative “Journey of Renewal”!  I see great things taking place if this is followed through with.  If we want to see real change and renewal in our Army, we must make the hard decisions; we must confront sin issues and deal with them, but we must also do it with grace and love.  We have to take responsibility for our actions from the top down and the bottom up!  No one is more important than the next, and if we are leaders, we must be servants first.

Please pray for your leaders, the greater the responsibility of leadership one assumes the more temptation there is, and they face a lot more pressure as well.

May we hold each other accountable for no other purpose than to see lives transformed by the renewing power of the Holy Spirit and to witness the lost being found by a mighty, mighty God!

Something more for the Army world to ponder today!
Tell us what you think!  Do you think this new initiative will work?  How can we make it work in our community/ministry?  How are you already doing “accountability” in your appointment, corps, ministry?
Leave your comments, questions and thoughts below.


Disclaimer:  “The thoughts and opinions written here are the writer’s and not necessarily that of The Salvation Army’s, reader discretion is advised.”

Dear Salvation Army, 10 – Salvationists That Have Inspired Me…

Paul had Barnabas to inspire and encourage him even if they didn’t always get a long in the end.
Paul became Timothy’s mentor who inspired a new generation of the early Christian church.
Throughout history there have been those who have stepped up to lead by example.  They have been mentors, accountability partners, strong godly leaders, examples of holiness.  Despite all of these things, none of them (and most will freely admit this) were perfect or had it “all together”.

getGet this:
Our Army needs more inspiring leaders like the ones I am about to list!
Perhaps this is you…perhaps you are the next generation of leaders about to step up and take this mantle.  This isn’t some sort of popularity contest, or ego trip…this is leading and serving as a godly example for others.   Many do this without any fan fare.
Most simply want to be like Christ and so they strive daily to humbly serve and become living examples of Him to the rest of us.  We certainly need more of these inspiring servants in our Army today!

Scriptural Reminders for us today: 
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.-Ephesians 4:2
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ…”  1 Corinthians 11:1
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved [a]you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God [b]as a fragrant aroma.”  Ephesians 5:1-2

This is not an exhaustive list, and I know that as I share my personal list with you, you will undoubtedly have others that come to your mind.   Also do not be offended (I will get my self in trouble with family and friends…sorry) if I do not list people that you know, or if I do not mention you…as I have already said this is not an exhaustive list.  There are many more!

uniform10 Salvationists That Have Inspired Me…
This isn’t some sort of ranked order, rather this is simply a list that I have currently compiled.
(sorry I may not have pictures for everyone)

1.  My Mother and Father – Colonels Dennis and Sharon Strissel
My parents have exemplified godly living to me.
I have witnessed their impact on this army both in the United States as well as in Africa.  They have always been servants first. Both my mother and father have been advocates for those without voices and have stood up for the marginalized.  I count it an honor to have these two as my parents.  They are faithful soldiers even as they head into retirement.  They have inspired me to be better, to make the army better, and to never settle for mediocrity when we can, in own selves, do more.

cox2. Majors Bill and Betsy Cox
If I were asked who exemplifies holiness to me, these two loving people would come to mind.  They have been mentors to my wife and me, and like second parents in the army to us.

I know that when I talk to either of them, when I have concerns and problems, they always give careful thought and grace in their responses.  They are just genuine people who love the Lord with all of their hearts and it just pours out upon those who are privileged to know them.  They make me want to be a better pastor and follower of Christ.

Colonels Dahl restore historical Will Rogers sign at Camp Wonderland.
Colonels Dahl restore historical Will Rogers sign at Camp Wonderland.

3.  Colonels Marv and Bodil Dahl
Admittedly not the best picture of these two beautiful people, but you must know that Colonel Marv is a painter and despite current physical challenges, he is still a wonderful artist.  This picture is recent and both Colonels Bodil and Marv gave 90 hours each to this amazing restoration project.

Words cannot express how encouraging these two saints of God have been to me in this present appointment!   These two have been Barnabas’ to us.  They are truly servants first and then they offer their wealth of leadership advice!  I am inspired by Colonels Dahl because they operate from a place of compassionate care and concern for fellow soldiers and officers.  They take the time to listen and they are willing to make time for you.

4.  Commissioner Dinsdale Pender
This was years ago.  I was just a small boy with parents living on St. Helena Island.  My parents where the missionary officers there on St. Helena for four years.  I distinctly remember Commissioner Pender coming to the Island for a visit.  As the band welcomed him at the seaside docks with a rousing song, he fiddled with his brief case as if attempting to pull out his cornet to play as well.  For me the reason he inspired me wasn’t so much what he said, honestly I was a small boy and cannot remember much of that time.  But what I do remember of him was his charisma and humor.  He made leadership within the Army look smart as well as fun.  He always seemed to have a smile and brought a sense of whimsical humor with the concept of leadership.

5.   Major Stephen Court and Major Danielle Strickland Court

Both Stephen and Danielle bring a sense of “in your face” kind of Salvationism that’s been missing in our army for a while (in my opinion).  Their ministry has been global, it has challenged me.  I truly appreciate their leadership (albeit from afar).  I can remember going to a commissioning in which they were the guest speakers.   They didn’t hold anything back, and it was powerful.  I’m not attempting to puff anyone up here, it was just something I will never forget and it has inspired me within the ministries I have been privileged to lead.   Both in their own rights are extremely talented writers and communicators and I admire their willingness to challenge our Army onward!
They are a spark within in our army which has become a catalyst for a new generation of Salvationist!

gowans6.  General John Gowans 
I remember his leadership as General.
How he spoke of the three legged stool of Salvationism.stool
His leadership style at times chaffed against some, but I found him to be refreshing.  He was a shot in the arm for the Army.  He had vigor and passion to see a greater army at work in the world.  I admired him and he inspired me to be a better writer and communicator for this army.  He also inspired me to push the boundaries of our “bubble” within the Army.

trans7.  TransMission (Southern Territory, USA)
This is the real deal Salvationist.  They have a passion to minister to the hearts of young people through music.  They are just down to earth guys who love the Lord.  Marty

I appreciate how TransMission have incorporated doctrinal truths into their music ministry and their passion and zeal to lead others to Christ is inspiring!  Being a movement of holiness, the progression and integration of modern styles of music has planted and watered a seed within a younger generation of Salvationists.

Adams8.  Commissioner Clive Adams

Commissioner Clive has been a source of encouragement to me within my officership as well as a writer, contributor and avid fellow blogger that I greatly admire.  He is a gifted leader and communicator and another down to earth Soldier who inspires others…plus he’s a fellow Man-United Fan!
When I read his blog postings I am encouraged and enjoy his humor as well as his candid honesty within our Army.
Read9.  Commissioner Harry Read
In my heart I have a special place of poets and Writers.
Commissioner Harry Read is still an avid poet who conjures up lines of thought provoking honesty within the minds of Christ-followers and Soldiers.  His ‘Heart-talks’ posted on social media as well as in the printed word inspire me to better articulate this holy path we all walk on.  He is a treasure to the army and although I may embarrass him in this post, I admire his ongoing active ministry.  He spurs me on, and I am sure he provides this boost in many other Salvationists around the globe.  Heart_Talk

10.  General Albert Orsborn general

My life must be Christ’s broken bread
My love His outpoured wine
A cup o’erfilled a table spread
Beneath His name and sign
That other souls refreshed and fed
May share His life through mine
(SASB #512 My Life must be Christ’s Broken Bread)

Obviously I never met General Orsborn, but his words within some of the songs that we still sing in our Army strike me at my core.  These lyrics speak to me about holiness, selflessness, servanthood, and what our Army should be all about.  I get inspired every time I sing the above mentioned song among others that he has written.

These are just ten Salvationists that have inspired me in my lifetime.
There are many more and, as I have already said, please do not become offended if you or someone you know isn’t mentioned.  This is not an exhaustive list.

Who has inspired you?
Please share your comments below, it is wonderful to hear these rich stories as we testify of God’s redeeming love!

Something more for our Army to ponder today!
To God be the glory, and may we aspire to be all that God has called us to be not only to inspire others but because we deeply desire to be like Christ in every way.

Dear Salvation Army, I Won’t Apologize To Sin…

Dear Soldier,
Let me clarify with a story…
A long time ago…

I had the distinct displeasure of confronting an issue in our corps.
It was unpleasant.
It was sad.
I was extremely disappointing.

Two people were carrying on with a relationship even though one of them was married (to another person).
The entire church knew about it.
I was even asked by a retired pastor if I was going to do something about the situation.
I wasn’t sure what to do at first.  I’ve never been afraid of confrontation.  I usually don’t back down from such situations, in fact I have to be careful…if I’m brutally honest.  I had been praying about this issue.  Praying for a simple, (less messy) solution…but none came.  Finally I rounded the bend in our church hallway and caught them.  Right then and there I confronted them.  It wasn’t so much the scene of Jesus turning over tables in the temple, but it sure felt close to that in my heart.  I felt (and still do) very sad about the situation.  Here were two grown, mature adult Christians caught up in a sin and neither would admit to any wrong doing.  We began to have an intense moment of fellowship, if you know what I mean.  I was angry with them but at the same time very, very sad.  They were obstinate and aggressive in their defense of their situation.  Suddenly it became everyone else’ fault…I honestly wasn’t looking to play the blame game.  I had not been praying for a direct confrontation like this, yet here it was.  Confrontation is never comfortable or enjoyable, and if it ever becomes comfortable and enjoyable then something is very wrong.  I hated it.  I wanted to be somewhere else other than right there in that moment, and yet I couldn’t be.  How could the church grow, continue to confess sin, fellowship in a healthy way and love one another with discipline and accountability when THIS elephant in the room was looming largely?

Sadly, circumstances were not recoverable…at least to my knowledge (I still hold out hope for reconciliation).  Both decided to go elsewhere to church.  I was even given an ultimatum – “apologize to us, or we won’t come back to church“…really?  I’m sorry, but I won’t apologize to sin.  I just can’t.  I can’t compromise like that.  Sin has a way of blinding us of our faults.  Sin has a way of shifting the blame, making us less aware of wrong doing while rationalizing it away until it’s okay and it’s someone else’ problem.

I never once said that they had to leave the corps.  They weren’t “kicked out”.  Amidst the confrontation I was painfully aware of grace and love…but I (we, the corps council) expected more from them because they were a part of our corps family.  Isn’t it like that with family?  The level of expectations are always higher because “family” should know better, should act better.

glassGlass Houses…
I keep thinking about the woman caught in adultery in Jesus’ day…Pharisees and teachers of the law drag this woman to Jesus.  Seriously, where was the guy who was caught as well?…doesn’t it take two to tango?..I digress.

These Pharisees want to trap Jesus while at the same time satisfying their blood thirsty need for “justice”.  Jesus, confronted with this issue, stoops down and writes in the sand.  Then after writing, doodling, naming the pharisees…I don’t know what He wrote, Jesus looks at the accusers and says “He who is without sin cast the first stone…”  – They depart.  The leave.  They don’t linger.  Something remarkable happens.  I would call it a miracle.  But the story isn’t over yet.  Yes, the blood thirsty accusers are gone, but the guilty woman still stands there.  Can you imagine the shame and embarrassment that she must have felt? The man she was with apparently does the walk of shame home without any other consequence, while she is caught, dragged, confronted in front of most of the town…how embarrassing and utterly horrifying!

Finally, Jesus stands up  and looks around and then to her and says, almost sarcastically surprised, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”  She says to Him, “No, Lord“…and then amazingly Jesus replies; “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” (John 8:1-11)

No Judgement…but Don’t Apologize to Sinjudgment
Let’s face it, we are all susceptible to sin.  If we believe that we are impervious to sin, watch out and beware!  I’m not trying to scare anyone here, it is just a reality.  We still struggle with this fallen life.  Temptation is all around us.  How we deal with these temptation defines how deep our spiritual maturity in Christ goes.  There is fine line in our walk with Christ in becoming a Pharisee and addressing real sin issues within the body of believers.  If done correctly, spiritual discipline and correction can become a life line of saving grace to someone caught in sin.  If done incorrectly, we throw adulterers, liars and cheats before Jesus while avoiding love, grace, compassion and understanding and/or facing our own hypocritical sinful selves.

The correct way desires to address spiritual issues, make one stronger in the faith, hold each other accountable for the purpose of building each other up in love, grace and compassion.  The incorrect way only serves to empower the accuser, demand judgement, criticizing immorality while avoiding any accountability of ones own actions.  We have to be careful how we conduct ourselves as accountability partners and leaders in our corps!

No…we can’t apologize to sin…but we can lovingly correct, share the burden of leadership with others.  Pray for reconciliation, confession, and forgiveness.  We were never meant to be judge, jury and executioners in our corps…but we must hold each other accountable and bring each other back from places of sin with the power of the Holy Spirit.  We can’t ignore critical issues in our corps.  We can’t pretend they don’t exist.  We can’t  bury our heads in the sand when elders, local officers and soldiers (even officers) trip and fall.  If we have any love in us for Christ and for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, then we will fight tooth and nail to seek reconciliation and restoration…until that time, don’t stop praying intercessory prayer for each other!

Something more for our Army World to Ponder today.

Dear Salvation Army – The Internal Battle & 3 Prescriptions!

robin3This past August when Robin Williams died, the world was shocked.  How could someone so funny come to such a sad and horrible ending?  We really do not understand the depths of such internal battles unless we ourselves have been there.

Just because we put on uniforms it doesn’t mean that we stop experiencing difficulties.

Just because we become a Christ-follower doesn’t mean that we stop struggling with internal battles.
Some people even genetically struggle with things like depression and I would like to talk about this today.  Before you stop reading and think to yourself “this doesn’t relate to me“, perhaps you’ll reconsider because we are all in this together and you just might be able to help someone else who DOES relate to this.

A Story About Depression:
One of my Uncles, who is an Officer in the Southern Territory USA,  shared with me a story about a local Presbyterian minister in his town.  It is a sad story.  The kind of story that causes shell shocked locals to question life and death and to reconsider their preconceived notions of depression.
Apparently, this local Presbyterian minister, who had been on sabbatical from his church, committed suicide.   He ended his life.  He allowed the darkness within him to quench the light of hope.  Let that sink in for a moment.  A minister, who was deeply depressed and struggling with this difficult internal battle, ended his life.  It doesn’t matter how he did it, but that he did it.  His church and surrounding community are currently and completely devastated.  Questions have been swirling and the idea that not just any person committed suicide, but a Pastor and leader of a church committed suicide has sent his church and community whirling in disbelief.

There’s A Lesson Here:
-Everyone is susceptible to these internal battles
It doesn’t matter if you’re a Presbyterian minister, a Catholic Priest or even a Salvation Army Officer or Soldier.  We still struggle in life sometimes.  We can still face things like depression.  Sometimes we’re very good at hiding it too.  Sometimes we’re so good that we even convince ourselves that nothing is wrong when something is very wrong within us.  We sometimes compartmentalize these struggles and convince ourselves that someone else is to blame or the situation at hand is to blame when the battle is truly internal.  Instead of beating ourselves up over feeling this way, we need to reach out for help.

The Misnomers Of Depression:
We can often look at these internal battles as weaknesses and something to be embarrassed about.  If you’re struggling right now or know someone who is, please don’t be embarrassed or make that person feel embarrassed.  Don’t think for a minute that you are less valuable because of the internal struggles you are facing.  Don’t think for a minute that no one will understand.  Don’t think for a minute that you are all alone in these dark days.  Don’t buy into the lie that you must be weaker than other because you are struggling.

Another misnomer with depression is the idea that if I deny it exists (that I’m depressed)  I will be fine.  Have you ever shaken up a carbonated soda and then opened up the top?  What happens?  The bottled up carbonated soda explodes from the container doesn’t it?  In the same way that bottle can’t hold the shaken contents, so too our bodies and minds aren’t equipped to hold everything in either.  We have to let these struggles and abscesses of the heart and soul out of us.  We can’t avoid them…they won’t simply go away.  We could do more harm to ourselves if we just let them fester within us without releasing them.

Here are three prescriptions, dear soldier, to help us conquer and win these internal battles  –

1) Seek Professional Help!
It is a sign of strength, not weakness to receive help from a counselor, pastor, or professional psychologist.  Get over the misconception that it is wrong to talk about your struggles.  Seeking out help is the first step to having victory over that internal battle!  Don’t be afraid to ask for help!  When we have someone else on board with us helping us find hope and joy again we can also find healing.

accountability12) Seek Accountability
This might go hand in hand with #1…but it goes further.  Do you have a friend in whom you can confide?  Are there trusted people in your life who can listen but also be honest with you?  Don’t seek out just anyone or even someone who agree with everything you say.  Find someone who will challenge you, be honest with you and will keep you accountable.  Seek out a fellow brother or sister in Christ who can pray with you and help shoulder your heavy burdens.  Accountability helps relieve some of these internal struggles.  Depression is worse when dealt with alone…remember that!

3) Find Rest And Activitiesrest1
We need our rest to replenish our physical and emotional reserves.  Officers and soldiers are ever in the fray of this mission field, but even soldiers and officers need hobbies and rest!  Make sure you find some “Me” time.  This isn’t selfish this is self-preservation.  What good will you be if you are spent and worn through and through?  Make sure you find things to do outside your mission field sometimes.  Get sufficient rest, take time to reconnect and rejuvenate.

These are just three crucial prescriptions.  There are more, but doing these three things will help in your journey to victory over your internal battles.  Don’t quit.  Don’t think for a moment that you are alone.  You are loved.  You are needed.  You are important!

If we are to be healthy Soldiers and Officers, we must first be honest with ourselves and be willing to do a little soul-care from time to time.  These internal battles won’t just go away if we just ignore them, we must confront them and in that confronting we can find healing and recovery!

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” -Proverbs 4:23

Something more for our Army world to ponder today!
To God Be The Glory…and remember, You are NOT alone!!

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